Questions Over BP Lobbying for Lockerbie Bomber's Release Overshadows Obama, Cameron Meeting

The agenda for today's White House meetings between President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron included the war in Afghanistan, the Middle East peace process and cooperation on the global economy.

But overshadowing those pressing policy issues were questions over the role that oil company BP had in pushing for the release of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al Megrahi last year in order to help secure a lucrative oil exploration deal with Libya.

Libyan-born al Megrahi was convicted of masterminding the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103, which killed 270 people, most of them American. He was sentenced to life in prison but was released and allowed to return to Libya last year on compassionate grounds after it was determined he had only three months left to live. Now his health is good, and he is living the hero's life in Libya.

Video: Obama and Cameron discuss beer temperture preference.
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Both BP and the current British government, which came to power only months ago, deny the company played any role in securing the bomber's release last year.

Cameron insisted repeatedly today that the decision to release Megrahi was solely that of the Scottish government and he has not seen anything to indicate that they were swayed by any lobbying efforts by BP. He also said he did not think there was a need for a U.-K. based inquiry into the matter.

"I don't need an inquiry to tell me what was a bad decision," he said. "It was a bad decision."

The British Prime Minister did say that while there was "absolutely not harm to be done" by providing a full explanation into the circumstances, he did not think there was "any great mystery here."

Video of President Barack Obama remarks on UK Prime Minister David Cameron.
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"There was a decision taken by the Scottish Executive -- in my view, a wholly wrong and misguided decision, a bad decision, but their decision, nonetheless," he said. "That's what happened, and I don't think we need an extra inquiry to tell us that that's what happened."

Obama said he agreed that the release of Megrahi was a "bad decision," but he said he fully supports Cameron's efforts to learn more.

This was Cameron's first official visit to the White House since he took office in May.

Both Obama and Cameron emphasized the "special relationship" between their two nations and Obama said that the United States "has no closer ally and no stronger partner than Great Britain."

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The two leaders displayed a warm camaraderie in just their second face-to-face meeting since Cameron became prime minister, joking about soccer and how to convince their young children to clean their rooms. (Give them notice that the prime minister is coming, Obama said.)

Obama was effusive in his praise of the young Conservative Party prime minister and emphasized their cooperation.

"I appreciate David's steady leadership and his pragmatic approach," he said. "And just as he's off to an energetic start at home, I think we've had a brilliant start as partners who see eye to eye on virtually every challenge before us."

Last month at the G8/G20 summit in Canada, Obama gave Cameron a lift on his presidential helicopter, Marine One, and paid up on their World Cup soccer bet. After the U.S.-England match ended in a tie, the two leaders exchanged beers in a sign of good sportsmanship.

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Today Obama said that part of the two leaders' "excellent discussions" focused on how to serve beer, warm or cold.

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